Four Types of Breathing
Breathing is essential to proper body function and martial arts training. Although breathing is autonomic, it can be voluntarily controlled and mechanically assisted. Ultimately, the ease and naturalness of control over breathing determines the limits of a martial artist’s abilities. In Cuong Nhu, four types of breathing exercises are practiced. Since breathing generates the body’s basic currency in the form of oxygenated blood, each of the these exercises can be looked at as part of the body’s “financial plan.” First and second breathing are like checking accounts in which the deposits equal the withdrawals, and nothing is saved. Third breathing is like a savings account where air is “banked” in the lower abdomen. Fourth breathing is like an investment in a “stock” of inner strength “diversified” by diffusing ki throughout the body and extremities. First breathing restores your breathing to maximum efficiency and calms and regulates the heart rate. To practice: • Inhale through the nose, chin up and head slightly back. Raise both palms to chin level. Bring the shoulders up and drop the diaphragm. Breathe with the shoulders, chest and abdomen. • Exhale through the mouth. Turn hands palm down and slowly, relax the body and bend slightly to depress the diaphragm. Second breathing rapidly restores oxygen to your body after extreme exertion. It trains the lungs to hold more air. To utilize this technique: • Inhale through the nose, chin up and head slightly back. Raise your arms upward in a circular outward movement. Continue to inhale as you raise your arms above the head. Bring the shoulders up and drop the diaphragm down. • Exhale through the mouth. Lower your arms in a circular downward movement, bending slightly, and exhale forcefully two times. Drop the clavicles, push the shoulders down and raise the diaphragm up. Third breathing increases blood circulation and oxygen to the body and extremities. With each breathing cycle: • Inhale through the nose, chin up, head slightly back. Raise both palms to your chin level. Bring the shoulders up and drop the diaphragm down. Holding your breath, tense and extend your arms as if pushing your palms forward. Flow the air from your lungs to the lower abdomen and store the air. Hold and disperse the flow of energy through the arms and legs along the meridian pathways. Drop your weight into the abdomen by bending the legs. • Exhale through the mouth. Slowly lower the hands (palm up), drop clavicles and push shoulders down. Raise the diaphragm to ensure that all air is out of the lungs. Fourth breathing increases and renews total functioning capacity of the body. It develops the internal energy by taking control of the breath and flowing the energy through the entire body. Except for the last step, fourth breathing is mechanically identical to third. As you breathe: • Inhale through the nose, chin up, head slightly back. Raise both palms to your chin level. Bring shoulders up and drop diaphragm. Holding your breath, tense and extend your arms as if pushing your palms forward. Flow the inhaled air from your lungs to the lower abdomen and store the air. Drop your weight into the abdomen by bending the legs. Hold and disperse the flow of energy through the arms and legs along the meridian pathways. • Exhale through the mouth. Slowly lower your hands, palm up. Drop your clavicles and push shoulders down. Raise the diaphragm to drain all air from the lungs. After exhaling all the air, hold the exhalation. Don’t breathe. With practice, you can gradually increase the time on the exhalation.